Phillies: Dollars and Surprises ahead for 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the outline of the ‘21 Philadelphia Phillies is forming, stating more is mere speculation before November. For many organizations, though, 2021 will be a summer of financial water-treading, but some will take advantage of roster opportunities from unexpected franchises unavailable in previous offseasons.     

 

Unpredictable but Exciting:

The Phillies faithful shouldn’t harshly --harshly-- judge managing partner John Middleton until they see if he plays it safe or gambles on a one-of-a-kind situation for a more competitive ‘21 campaign. Yes, he has the financial clout to acquire a top fireman for less-than-average market value, but a closer will still be expensive. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are more teams looking for pitchers than there are pitchers. That's why it's pricey.” - Brian Cashman

Writers draw conclusions based only on partial information because clubs keep internal strategy away from the media. However, they will at times unintentionally reveal a few clues a scribe can combine with standard front-office procedures.                

Understanding fans’ logic is more difficult, but one can take an educated guess after hearing familiar complaints and demands from 20 other fan bases. Translation: Supporters must subliminally imagine unlimited financial restraints and would just sign the top player if they owned the team. But easy it isn’t!

Partitioning is my term for how fans can easily justify maximum spending. Basically, they start with a total like $80 million, and Trevor Bauer is affordable at even $50 million on a one-year deal. But so too are JT Realmuto at $30 million per 162 and two stud relievers at $20 million combined.                   

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Phillies Spending Options for 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies will have a new front office for 2022, it could be 2021 if president Andy MacPhail retires a year early. Basically, managing partner John Middleton prefers a fresh start for the 2020-21 offseason, but the big-ticket negotiations will belong to him regardless.   

 

No-man’s-land:

For the Phillies faithful, winter is a time to dream of a roster without holes and bemoan management’s failure to deliver a championship-caliber team. Unfortunately, even the ‘20 New York Yankees had shortcomings despite exceeding all three tax levels involving the CBT (competitive-balance threshold).  

IN OTHER WORDS:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” - Helen Keller

Fans aren’t differentiating between the normal 162 with spending, signings, trades and offseason preparation compared to 2021. And excluding the inconvenient details facing front-office execs amplifies expectations no GM can meet. Yes, 2021’s certainty is uncertainty!                                 

Prior to COVID-19’s influence, organizations made decisions based on rules protecting players from losing career opportunities due to franchises with overstocked pipelines. Moreover, management combines their talent planning for three to five summers, not just next April.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 had many new wrinkles: the universal DH, no spectators, COVID-19 protocols, a truncated schedule, and other rule changes, temporary and permanent. So no one should assume a return to normalcy without better control of the virus. However, 2021 should have more games and some attendance.

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Phillies: Addressing 2020’s Frequent Conclusions

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Forming an opinion on the Philadelphia Phillies doesn’t even require a minute’s thought for many, and firing a general manager and/or his boss is a go-to position. The faithful have little patience for not meeting their expectations, real or perceived. So, silence wasn’t an option!  

 

Researched Views:

On the surface, Phillies fans either praise or give a pass to their favorites but criticize struggling players including reserves like Andrew Knapp. Basically, they must point out the Fightins’ shortcomings despite all teams having warts. More information, though, can easily challenge their beliefs.

IN OTHER WORDS:

“People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is actually done by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it.” - Anthony de Mello

In this article, many locals drew these conclusions, but I can’t remember who reached each one because they continuously blend together over the months. So, I’m not referring to anyone in particular.        

Playing time is probably the most important factor in being a productive hitter in the major leagues, and any backup for JT Realmuto is going to have difficulty. Realistically, a batter must begin his swing as the hurler is releasing the ball if he has a 95-mph fastball: It looks different at field level.               

Pinch-hitting without occasionally getting four at-bats in some contests is a task only a few can achieve like a Matt Stairs. And, usually, the secondary receiver is a capable defender, and any offense is an unexpected plus.   

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Phillies: 2020’s Right or Wrong Expectations

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

As the playoffs begin, the Philadelphia Phillies faithful want managing partner John Middleton to hold general manager Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail accountable for their mistakes. However, fans automatically expect and/or demand success regardless of their unmentioned takes before the season.

 

A Bust or Developing:

Despite advice to be patient with certain stars, some Phillies fans had mostly unchangeable minds to unload or demote some regulars after four weeks of action. So, were some locals right or wrong in their player evaluations now at campaign’s end, or was caution appropriate? 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“It often happens that things are other than what they seem, and you can get yourself into trouble by jumping to conclusions.” - Paul Auster

For most franchises, their supporters are quick to call an MLB-promoted youngster a bust if he doesn’t immediately produce his minor league numbers: Double-A and/or Triple-A.  Well, one problem is the organizational touting of these future stars, who aren’t even aware of the fan base’s expectations.                               

Although most veteran hitters are streaky, some locals view a slump as something wrong with the regular. And their patience depends on if he is a fan favorite or someone blocking an anticipated superstar. Double standard, no?                   

Because the Show has 30 clubs instead of 16, prospects don’t spend a year at each level to be ready for the major leagues. And another reason is the financial balancing of expensive superstars with the rest of the 40-man roster. Today, a youngster makes an impact in or after his third summer with rare exceptions.    

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2020 Phillies: Win-related Path to October

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For the Philadelphia Phillies faithful, these final games are either the “half-full or half-empty” conundrum. So whether you consider yourself a pessimist, a realist or an optimist, will you permit yourself to dream for a week? Even for a wild card?      

            

High Hopes:

Enjoying the action from home, most Phillies fans can only sit on the edge of their seats and squirm on each pitch with the tying run at home for the red pinstripes and between each fastball from their ninth-inning hurler. But some locals doubt the Fightins will be playing in a wild-card series.     

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There is no such thing as helplessness. It's just another word for giving up.” - Jefferson Smith

Based on the last two Septembers, the “Phils can’t reach the postseason” thinking has replaced “their division rivals have a better rotation” logic. And if they make the playoffs, some will probably say their opponent has a better record and home-field advantage for those games.              

Despite their recent injuries, the Phillies are demonstrating a strong desire to scratch out a victory with old-school baseball: moving the runner, bunting, stealing bases, hitting sacrifice flies, and plating a run with suicide and safety squeeze bunts. No, manager Joe Girardi isn’t waiting for a three-run homer like his predecessor.   

In ‘20, the Fightins will do what it takes to give the relief corps another run to work with because this September the attitude is different. But if you are ready to abandon them after a loss, then, you could be on a death watch and believe their elimination will probably happen sooner rather than later.  

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Phillies: Bullpen’s Plan B for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

As the Philadelphia Phillies games on the schedule dwindle, the calendar says September; and I’m not writing about free agents for 2021, the franchise’s future stars, and the organization’s finances regarding the competitive-balance threshold for next year. Instead, my articles will involve strengths, weaknesses, and possible fixes.

 

On Girardi’s Radar:

Even though the pen has been the Achilles' heel of the Phillies, one pitcher stands out as a potential answer. And, recently, Joe Girardi took his first step in that direction on Sept. 10 when he signaled in the sixth inning for the reliever to face an opposite-side bat (not a pinch hitter). But will this hurler earn high-leverage roles?                

IN OTHER WORDS:

The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.” - James A. Yorke

For relievers, ERAs can be deceptive because a moundsman can have nine solid outings out of ten with one clunker for a 5.00 ERA. But if he’s successful in 8 out of 10 chances, he’s at 80 percent, and his effective rate meets management’s expectations with 75 percent acceptable for a season.  

Girardi has vocalized and demonstrated his survival plans for the bullpen, and it includes his roles from the sixth frame through the ninth with a potential closer and maybe two October relief additions. Unfortunately, many fans block out the skipper’s words with their “dominant” views. Fandom managers, no?                 

Hector Neris has the most important job in Giradi’s relief corps because he enters the game in the last three frames depending on which inning has the toughest outs. So, notice who hits in the seventh, eighth, or ninth frames; and you’ll know exactly when the split-finger pitcher will get the call.      

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2020 Phillies, NL East: Current National Predictions

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

After the Philadelphia Phillies had dominated at a 90.9 percent clip, they came back to earth because winning 10 of every 11 games isn’t sustainable by any team. And the players don’t expect everything to go their way indefinitely. Unfortunately, some locals believe hot or cold streaks never end, but they always do.   

 

Forecasts Revised:

For Phillies fans, the ups and downs between now and Sept. 27 will be a daily occurrence. Seven contests, though, of the final 21 are with a club on the playoff periphery and one in the cellar: the New York Mets (three games) and the Washington Nationals (four), while the Miami Marlins have seven contests to prove they’re for real. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” - Benjamin Franklin

While many locals here are probably having some doubts after the 10-1 run ended, our northern neighbors in the Bronx are a perfect example of fandom’s equivalent of mood swings. Well, the New York Yankees opened the season with an 8-1 mark, and their supporters boasted their Bombers are basically unbeatable.               

World Series champs, no? But after they only had been triumphant in eight of their next 13 games at 16-5, they went 5-15 in their next 20, and their fans are beside themselves: They won’t make the playoffs, fire the general manager, and fire the skipper. For some reason, I remember similar sentiments elsewhere.             

My research includes keeping up with the other 29 organizations also, and ‘20 has multiple injuries every day and not just three or four. No, I’m not alone in noticing a year’s worth in a 60-game schedule not including the COVID-19 cases at the campaign’s beginning. This summer is unlike the usual 162.       

In fact, Yankees manager Aaron Boone has received criticism for giving guys too many days off, but he probably is being overly cautious to keep his team on the field. Realistically, the Bronx Bombers have been a MASH unit in 2019 and 2020. 

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Phillies: 2020's NL East Rotation Surprises

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In most seasons, the healthy team has an advantage over clubs with equal or slightly better personnel. And the Philadelphia Phillies are currently enjoying the good fortune of avoiding injuries to their five-man staff, while their three main competitors for the National League East pennant are not. Difference-maker, no?   

 

A One-of-a-kind Campaign:

On the surface, the Phillies faithful considered the Fighins’ rotation to be fourth out of five teams, but MLB injuries are an annual occurrence: 2019’s bullpen had withstood having eight relievers on the IL (injured list). And this summer has doubled MLB IL stints due to disrupted routines, plus COVID-19 is ever present.    

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” - Arthur Conan Doyle

Following the trading deadline, five-man staffs will only change due to injury, ineffectiveness, the coronavirus and in-house surprises. Therefore, the Fightins, the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Washington Nationals -- barring unplanned situations-- have their starters.         

Some locals express themselves with disappointment and/or anger because a certain organizational weakness still remains despite their belief of available talent a general manager should acquire. Unfortunately, the other club has a say: asking price and/or a willingness to move the star at all.   

Phillies atop the Rotation:

  • RH Aaron Nola, 27: 7 Gms., 44 Inn., 4-2, a 2.45 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and a 1.3 fWAR.
  • RH Zack Wheeler, 30: 7 Gms., 45 Inn., 4-0, a 2.20 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and a 1.3 fWAR.
  • Stats through Sept. 3.

For the Phillies, Nola and Wheeler are a solid one-two punch, and round one of the playoffs is a three-game series. Ergo, the third contest is necessary if the clubs split the first two games, and the options here are Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin (probably), Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez.

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2020 Phillies: The Pitching Trade, Behind and Ahead

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Many fans believe they have the answers to the Philadelphia Phillies shortcomings in the pitching trade (occupation) during the offseason or before any month-ending deadline. Yet, unforgiving is a mild view of their reaction to those arms management didn’t acquire for 2019 and 2020. But have their suggestions panned out?                    

 

Glad or Mad: 

Except for Pat Gillick, the Phillies faithful have recently had these general managers: Ed Wade, Ruben Amaro Jr. and currently Matt Klentak. Yes, this sounds like a chorus: Fire Wade! Fire Amaro! Fire Klentak! Translation: Gillick won the 2008 World Series and is in the Hall of Fame. No parade, no job, no?                

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Toughest job in baseball is the general manager. Second toughest is the hitting coach.” - Ken Harrelson

Many opinionated locals voice their displeasure with the front office because they aren’t making satisfactory moves. And if Klentak wasn’t clueless in their eyes, these swaps and signings would produce a serious championship opportunity. Basically, these contending solutions for ‘19 and ‘20 were surefire according to many fans.  

For the five-man staff, southpaws Patrick Corbin, James Paxton, JA Happ, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Cole Hamels were available; and lefty Robbie Ray now might be a possibility. Plus right-hander Dallas Keuchel was a free agent twice.       

With relievers, Zach Britton, Craig Kimbrel, Will Smith and Dellin Betances were the targeted gets according to the overall fan base. Surprisingly, the current alignment in the relief corps isn’t producing an outcry for any specific bullpen piece.   

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Phillies vs. New York Mets for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful focus on their relief corps, this glaring flaw has distracted many from a rotation some had doubted during the offseason. And those locals argued the five-man staff doomed the Fightins to fourth place, but others said a third place tie or worse. Yeah, dead last?    

                                           

Northern Neighbors:

For Phillies and New York Mets fans, this is the third summer where both organizations are competitive. Usually, one doesn’t have a shot at postseason glory, but injuries on both teams have been more than enough to sink those chances since 2008.     

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Such seems to be the disposition of man, that whatever makes a distinction produces rivalry.” - Samuel Johnson

In ‘20, the injuries are piling up for muscles, backs and ligaments at an alarming rate aside from COVID-19 incidents. Every day, the number of players placed on the IL (injured list) increases despite precautionary measures.                

The why is the downtime between March and July: Some players had more resources than others. Additionally, the shorter ramp-up time and the start-and-stop circumstances have roughly doubled the injury problem.  

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